DETROIT – Max Scherzer pitched seven strong innings and the first-place Detroit Tigers hit three homers in a 4-1 victory over the second-place Cleveland Indians on Friday night.
The Indians could have taken over the AL Central lead with a sweep of the three-game series, but now trail Detroit by 2½ games.
Scherzer (13-7) allowed one run, five hits and a walk while throwing a career-high 127 pitches.
Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde finished, with the latter pitching the ninth for his 36th save in as many opportunities. Valverde was coming off Wednesday's loss to the Twins, where he allowed two ninth-inning runs in a tie game.
Josh Tomlin (12-6) took the loss, giving up four runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings.
The Tigers didn't get a runner into scoring position in the first five innings, but Ryan Raburn hit a one-out single in the sixth and Austin Jackson followed with his sixth career homer.
Cleveland got a run back in the seventh. Carlos Santana led off the inning with a single, and after Scherzer struck out the next two hitters, Lonnie Chisenhall beat out an infield grounder when first baseman Miguel Cabrera's throw pulled Scherzer off the bag. Santana took third on the play and scored on a wild pitch.
Detroit made it 4-1 in their half of the inning. Alex Avila, catching for the 13th straight game because of Victor Martinez's sore knee, hit a two-out, 400-foot homer, and Jhonny Peralta hit the next pitch for his 18th homer.
NOTES: The Indians juggled their roster before the game, placing INF Jason Kipnis (hamstring) on the DL and sending OF Ezequiel Carrera to Triple-A Columbus. To replace them, the Indians recalled OF Shelley Duncan and INF Luis Valbuena from Columbus. ... The game drew a sellout crowd of 44,222, the biggest since 44,799 attended the home opener against Kansas City. ... The teams continue the series Saturday night with Detroit's Doug Fister (4-13) making his third start as a Tiger while David Huff (1-1) pitches for Cleveland. ... The Tigers announced before the game that RHP Al Alburquerque (concussion) will be out for at least another 10 days. Alburquerque was eligible to come off the 7-day concussion DL on Friday.